White paper

Automate with APIs to solve pain points

Tax and accounting firms face a growing list of challenges impacting their operations and evolving profession. Issues such as hybrid teams, client management, workflow disruptions, and technology integration have emerged as prominent hurdles. As workplace dynamics continue to shift, so do the pain points hampering firms’ productivity.

The pandemic and its aftermath exacerbated existing areas of friction. Retaining and recruiting talent, for example, has become increasingly difficult for many firms. Getting everyone on the same page has also been challenging as traditional office settings have become less prevalent and team building must now include provisions for remote workers. It is incumbent upon managers and team leaders to find ways to ease the pressure created by these growing pain points. They need to find effective solutions that address not only the needs of their teams but those of clients as well — this is where automation, such as application programming interfaces (APIs), can deliver substantial value.

Here, we will explore some of the ways a decentralized workforce has impacted tax and accounting firms and discuss the technology and automation strategies firms are using to streamline operations and overcome their challenges.

How can APIs ease the pain?

An accounting firm’s tech stack works best when its components and the professionals who rely on their capabilities seamlessly integrate. As more firms realize this, the shift toward APIs has accelerated.

There are tremendous synergistic benefits to building a full-scale technological ecosystem from the ground up. It does little good to solve only some of the inefficiencies holding back a firm while failing to address other hitches down the line that could potentially neutralize those gains. A technology ecosystem is only as strong as its least-effective processes, so it is important to approach the matter from a bird’s-eye view.

To create this ecosystem, you need the right tools. APIs have become the primary option for architects and engineers developing the holistic end-to-end solutions dominating the tax and accounting industry.

So, what exactly is an API?

APIs are bits of software code that let one application access and use the features or data of another application. An API specifies how software components should interact. Simply put, the API is a bridge between two different and separate applications.

Before we can alleviate the pain, we must figure out what is causing it and how it is disrupting operations. In other words, we need to determine “what hurts.” In a post-COVID world, many of these issues come from the rapid, unexpected shift in the relationships and expectations between clients, managers, employees, consultants, and third-party business partners.

Consider some of these common examples:

  • Staff spends too much time on manual tasks like repetitive data entry or cleanup.
  • There’s a lack of efficient integration across systems and with many third-party applications.
  • Staff spends too much time on tax research and keeping pace with legislative changes.
  • Their software does not automatically download and install the most recent releases and updates.
  • Clients are not providing requested documents in a timely manner.
  • Inefficient — and potentially insecure — document collection and exchange.

According to research from Thomson Reuters, the most significant changes facing tax and accounting firms are the shift to remote work for many tax professionals (20%), followed by a reduced number of client meetings (15%). Furthermore, COVID-19 increased reliance on technology and decreased paper use (14%).

In addition to keeping pace with tax industry changes and meeting fluid deadlines, tax professionals have found themselves needing to provide even more support to their clients — albeit virtually. Firms that can seamlessly navigate these changes will be in a much better position to grow their firms.

Faced with increased client demands, a complex regulatory and legislative landscape, and the commoditization of tax preparation, more firms are placing a greater emphasis on providing clients with higher-value strategic advisory services. In fact, a recent survey from the Thomson Reuters Institute found that nearly 95% of tax professionals believe their clients want business advisory services; this client demand has accelerated in recent years.

To that end, there are four key areas we will focus on as we look at ways to avoid roadblocks and build a better, stronger, and more resilient technological ecosystem for tax and accounting firms. Those areas are workflow, talent, client services, and compliance.

Identifying pain points and streamlining workflow through API integration

For many tax and accounting firms, time spent managing all the pain points and challenges that arise from a segmented tech stack leaves no time to find a solution. A well-planned, well-executed API strategy can potentially address most, if not all, of those pain points. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common pain points.

Workflow: Automating manual processes

APIs enable tech staff to support integrations quickly and effectively and create flexible, interconnected systems and processes. They save staff a lot of time and can prove especially beneficial for firms looking to bridge the gap between new technologies and their legacy systems. APIs can also help fuel innovation across the firm.

Additionally, API integration makes it possible for a single application to serve as a hub of sorts, pulling in critical data from other applications. This ability creates the flexibility to connect systems and processes, ultimately allowing firms to provide clients with more targeted information and services.

So, what happens when you add automation across your firm’s tax workflow?

  • Teams can collaborate without version-control issues
  • Data passes seamlessly between platforms
  • Clients receive more value in the form of less billed time for manual work
  • Your staff achieves work-life balance

With integrated technology powered by APIs, your firm can solve disconnected technology issues and unleash its full potential — at a fraction of the cost.

Firms can gain significant benefits when they have the flexibility to connect the dots across systems via APIs. The reality is that when data is siloed in separate applications and systems that can’t communicate with one another, or if you’re dependent on manual processes to enter and aggregate it, your firm could be missing out on opportunities to leverage it across various tools and users. Let’s take a closer look.

Drive greater efficiencies

One of the most notable benefits of using APIs is that they can save your firm time and resources, and some tasks can be streamlined or even eliminated. This type of streamlining often provides greater accuracy and reduced risk; ultimately, it also means greater profitability for your firm.

Traditionally, tax professionals have spent a great deal of time gathering data from clients, loading that data into spreadsheets, reviewing the spreadsheets, determining which data is needed in the columns, reformatting the spreadsheets to be fed into the tax software, and then submitting that file into the tax application. That workflow is a time-consuming, manual process that keeps them from focusing on higher-value and more engaging work. But, with the help of APIs, they can automate those tasks and reduce the time spent on them to just a few minutes.

Using APIs, firms can receive improved data accessibility, process automation opportunities, and can establish entirely seamless, end-to-end workflows.

Consider the following potential efficiency gains:

  • Integrate with existing business systems to reduce manual data manipulation and streamline your tax workflows
  • Reduce internal controls risks that come with the manual upload and download of data files
  • Use the same data across multiple solutions — meaning you only import once, saving you input time
  • Export data to be used by your partners or in-house analytics team for additional analysis

When everything is connected, it’s much easier to ensure that data is processed consistently each time and that tasks are completed in a timely and accurate manner. This process helps reduce human error, which can potentially be more frequent with manual processes.

Talent: Recruiting and training staff and filling in the missing pieces

The impact of rote, manual processes has the potential to go beyond reduced efficiency and productivity. Manual processes can also negatively affect employee satisfaction, mental health, and overall workplace morale. Individuals with expertise and training in tax and accounting services want to use their time to handle pressing client issues and build relationships with them.

These benefits of APIs for tax and accounting professionals are clear — reducing costs, driving greater efficiencies, and unlocking new growth opportunities — but what about benefits beyond the firm’s bottom line?

Integrated tools and APIs help your team collaborate better, reduce manual effort, and protect the work-life balance. API implementation and the efficiencies they can provide can go a long way toward reducing stress on the staff and freeing up their time. For every team member at every level, APIs can empower professionals to achieve their goals, both in and out of the office.

Employers and employees alike are looking for every advantage to build a better work-life balance, create efficiencies as remote work grows, and build an operation that can thrive in any social or economic climate. Achieving that means hiring and recruiting the best talent available, training them to use emerging technologies, and helping them visualize a career path that keeps them with your firm.

Presently, there are some very real challenges impacting the tax and accounting labor market. In the “Thomson Reuters Institute 2023 state of the tax professionals report,” data provided by The Wall Street Journal indicates the last two years have been particularly challenging for recruiters since more than 300,000 auditors and accountants have left the field. The report notes that many of those professionals took higher-paying work in the technology and finance sectors.

The survey indicates “recruiting, training, and retaining qualified talent will continue to be a key challenge for many firms in 2023.” To that end, approximately two-thirds of employers said they expect it will be “somewhat” or “highly” challenging to find individuals with the skillsets needed to thrive. Almost the same number of those asked reported similar concerns concerning developing their staff, and 47% said they expect retaining employees already on payroll will present challenges.

Automation and technology check many boxes when it comes to solving these issues. Not only does automation make existing workflows simpler and less stressful for existing employees, but efficiencies created through the effective implementation of APIs can also help mitigate labor shortages. These types of efficiencies and the innovative culture they tend to support can also serve as a differentiator for young professionals who may be looking for their next opportunity.

Firms struggling to meet labor demands have already begun the process of implementing automation and other technological solutions to offset labor shortage issues. According to the tax professionals report, 41% of those asked said they plan to invest additional resources in automation. More than half of the large firms surveyed said they plan to use those solutions to fill talent gaps, while slightly fewer mid-sized and smaller firms expressed a desire to do the same.

Client services: Improving communication, increasing value

Elevating your firm from billing time to being an indispensable partner by using data and insights to uncover advisory opportunities is a great way to add value. Simply stated, satisfied customers are the lifeblood of a healthy business. Not only do they continue to utilize your services, but they are the best source of organic growth through the referral process. As such, improving client satisfaction through streamlining is crucial.

Additionally, these considerations become even more important as client demands continue to change. As previously noted, clients have increasingly sought firms that offer expanded advisory services. Building a tech stack that efficiently connects the dots across systems via APIs can support and enhance those practices to deliver a clean, effective, and dynamic customer experience.

With an integrated platform where information from multiple sources is digitally connected, firms save time and resources. It also allows for more accurate, real-time business reporting and accurate answers to client queries, which creates an opportunity for firms to focus more energy on delivering clients higher-value, higher-margin advisory services. Not only will these advisory services increase client satisfaction and ultimately boost profitability, but they also let your staff use their skills in a more meaningful and fulfilling way. With APIs, you can automate time-consuming tasks so your staff can focus on more interesting and value-added work, including providing the tax advice and consulting services they build their entire careers around developing.

Customers want more specialization

A growing number of firms are embracing industry specialization. Targeting a specific niche or vertical enables firms to differentiate themselves from the competition. Leveraging APIs can help firms more efficiently meet the unique needs of those clients.­­­­

Case in point: when business professionals who purchase accounting firm services were asked what they would change about their accounting firms, 27% said they wanted more familiarity with the business and its industry, according to a survey by CPA.com, Hinge Research Institute, and Bill.com.

By leveraging APIs, firms can tailor their systems to meet clients’ unique business needs more efficiently.

With an API-connected platform, you can provide your clients with the most up-to-date information and advice, positioning your firm as a valuable resource in today’s complex market.

Take, for example, a firm that specializes in real estate. By leveraging APIs, the firm can connect software systems to streamline the process of buying and selling property. They can also use APIs to easily gather data that provides more detailed information about real estate trends. This type of specialization can be extremely beneficial for firms looking to grow their businesses and build long-term relationships with real estate clients.

Consistency creates better client experiences

Another benefit of a well-automated and integrated tech stack is its consistency across interactions. Customers value predictability and reliability; when they interact with your firm, everything from the initial consultation to the tax return filing should be consistent and replicable. APIs help ensure their experience is the same across all channels and touchpoints.

If you can do that, it will go a long way toward building a positive relationship and a loyal client.

Managing compliance: Staying up to date with legislative changes

In today’s tax environment, technological advancements, ever-changing tax laws, and shifts in client demands are the new norm. Firms that operate on outdated or underperforming platforms will find it challenging to sustain growth and their competitive edge.

The busy tax season tends to highlight everything that’s working well and uncovers opportunities for improvement. When the busy season is over is an ideal time to flag inefficiencies, identify any gaps in workflow and collaboration among staff and clients, and begin looking at ways to start implementing an effective API strategy.

Integrate GoSystem Tax with the rest of your tech stack

GoSystem Tax APIs enable you to automate tax workflow processes related to e-filing, printing, and importing and exporting tax return data. Save time on return filing by letting the solutions from Thomson Reuters import — in real time — hundreds of partners into a partnership return or update a specific value within the tax return using live APIs.

Implementing GoSystem Tax APIs is as easy as picking from our standard out-of-the-box and ready-to-go solutions with no developer experience needed. For more complex tax workflows, we offer the ability to customize an API solution that fits your business best.

These endpoints implement a JSON-based messaging structure, allowing concise, lightning-fast requests to the GoSystem Tax product. The GoSystem Tax APIs have industry-leading asynchronous APIs, allowing time-consuming requests to process in the background while other requests are made.

Live APIs are currently available for the following tax forms, 990, 1040, 1041, 1065, and 1120.

Nearly 40 GoSystem Tax REST APIs are available — all of which you can find on the TR Developer Portal.

A single source of truth

It is important to consider the benefits of a cloud-native platform — one designed and built in a cloud infrastructure — that provides a comprehensive solution to fulfill your firm’s tax compliance and management needs. Having a single source of truth across all integrated applications will help your firm improve efficiencies, increase profitability, and collaborate with clients more productively.

Consider some of the opportunities a comprehensive, holistic, and cloud-native API tech stack could deliver for you and your clients:

  • Easy collaboration between staff and clients, including features like secure e-signature and online bill pay capability.
  • A customizable folder system to manage documents with full-text search and document annotations options.
  • Visibility into firm projects and staff assignments to drive productivity and confidence with the client.
  • In-the-moment decision support for your clients.
  • The ability to advise clients on business scenarios with potential tax implications to plan for in the upcoming year.
  • Links to research tools to provide tailored advice and guidance.
  • A user-friendly central database for staff, clients, and projects that is easy to navigate from a home page and client dashboard.
  • A client status system to maintain up-to-date statuses on all your clients’ tax returns at any time and track the progress of any event, such as opening, closing, and importing data.
  • A deep, integrated workflow system that enables your firm to move to one-time — or even zero-time — data entry.
  • A web client organizer that enables clients to complete their tax information online via your website using a customizable questionnaire.
  • Multi-monitor flexibility across up to four separate monitors.
  • Advanced, timely, and dependable e-filing capabilities.
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) technology that even untrained, non-professional staff can use to scan, verify, and export 1040 source documents into tax returns.
  • Streamlined updates so the tax solution updates itself on its own without requiring staff to exit the system in the middle of a busy tax season.


Tax and accounting professionals are constantly under pressure to meet deadlines and handle complex financial data, making effective technology integration a potential game changer. Perhaps best of all, it can help relieve some of the pressure staff often experience.

Improving efficiency, driving automation, and streamlining internal processes are essential for tax and accounting firms looking to effectively meet increased client demands — and, ultimately, generate greater profitability. For many of today’s firms, advancements in technology and APIs are making it all possible.

API use has surged in recent years and is changing the way tax and accounting professionals work and serve their clients. Embracing technology to improve efficiency, accuracy, and client satisfaction is helping firms reach their goals. The positive impact automation and APIs can have on tax and accounting firms is clear, and firms willing to adapt to new technologies will thrive in the long run. Incorporating automation into workflows will help you remain competitive in an ever-evolving industry.

Learn more about Thomson Reuters solutions

For more information about how to enhance your firm's processes and overcome challenges, check out:

Checkpoint Edge

Checkpoint Edge is the next generation of our Checkpoint research and guidance tool for tax and accounting professionals. It delivers the latest in artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and machine-learning technologies, combined with our editorial staff's tax and accounting expertise. It enables you to find fast, accurate answers with a more fluid and intuitive user experience.

GoSystem Tax APIs

GoSystem Tax APIs streamline tax workflow processes, such as e-filing, printing, and importing and exporting tax return data. This automation allows you to save time on return filing by importing hundreds of partners into a partnership return or updating a specific value within the tax return quickly and easily.

Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE

ONESOURCE provides software and services for corporate entities and accounting firms worldwide to ensure tax and trade compliance. ONESOURCE can help with nearly any tax-related function, including indirect tax, corporate income tax, tax provision, data and process management, and much more.

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